Franklin Graham's 'Hyderabad Festival' draws thousands

Published 11 November 2011  |  
Over 40,000 people heard Franklin Graham speak at the 'Hyderabad Festival' on Thursday.

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, more than 43,500 people poured into Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad, while another 5,000 attended a live satellite telecast in Guntur.

The event began with worship led by the Millennium Methodist Band, Sion Fellowship Band, the Festival Choir and Orchestra, and a colorful performance by the Seva Bharath Dance Team.

Sound of the Nations performed later. The popular group formed in India in 2003 as a brainchild of founder Dan McCollam's vision to raise worshipers and leaders across the globe.

Anil Kant next performed his hit "Pray for India" and several other songs to the delight of the crowd. "It is not about the songs we sing in worship. It's about the heart we offer to the Lord," the artist shared. "God can use anybody and He uses us all, exactly where He has planned to use us."

At the official opening time, the Festival's Executive Chairman Rev G Samuel said to the audience: "There is great joy in Hyderabad that Franklin Graham is preaching the Word of God in this place."

Some 1,240 people responded to the Gospel message at the end of the evening on Thursday.

The eldest son of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham, Franklin serves as the chief of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and international relief agency Samaritan's Purse.

Speaking to reporters and key Christian leaders on Wednesday, Franklin said he did not come to India to promote a religion. "I am here out of obedience to Godâ€"to promote a relationship with Jesus Christ, His Son."

Graham emphasized that everyone is invited to come: "This is an event put on by the churches here. There will be great music all four nightsâ€"it is a festival atmosphere. We just want people to know about God's love."

Churches from across Hyderabad have worked together for the last year to bring the Hyderabad Festival to their city this weekend.

"The Franklin Graham Festival is one of the most exciting things to happen in Hyderabad," said Rev Christy Rajender, who is serving as the Youth and Volunteers Committee Chairman.

He explained that youth in Hyderabad are interested in "friends, food, fashion, fun and family. But they don't know the true happiness that comes from a relationship with Jesus."

"This is an opportunity to give our young people hope and help in facing challenges," Rev Christy added. "We want everyone to overcome darkness and see the light of God. Franklin Graham has come at the right time."

Rev Mohan Babu, one of the Festival's Vice Chairmen, expressed his great regard for the Rev Billy Graham. "And it is only right that his son Franklin should be here to carry on the work of the Gospel. He has brought harmony to our churches and helped us to see that a nation like India can rise to its feet by praying, giving and working together."

"This Festival has given our churches a real sense of ownership," he said.

The three-day Festival will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 13.

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